"A Gaelic Song" by Ethna Carbery [aka Mrs. Seumus MacManus, Anna Johnston] (1866-1902)
A murmurous tangle of voices,
Laughter to left and right,
We waited the curtain's rising,
In a dazing glare of light;
When down through the din came, slowly,
Softly, then clear and strong,
The mournful minor cadence
Of a sweet old Gaelic song.
Like the trill of a lark new-risen,
It trembled upon the air,
And wondering eyes were lifted
To seek for the singer there;
Some dreamed of the thrush at noontide,
Some fancied a linnet's wail,
While the notes went sobbing, sighing,
O'er the heartstrings of the Gael.
The lights grew blurred, and a vision
Fell upon all who heard–
The purple of moorland heather
By a wonderful wind was stirred;
Green rings of rushes went swaying,
Gaunt boughs of Winter made moan;
One saw the glory of Life go by,
And one saw Death alone.
A river twined through its shallows,
Cool waves crept up on a strand,
Or fierce, like a mighty army,
Swept wide on a conquered land;
The Dead left cairn and barrow,
And passed in noble train,
With sheltering shield, and slender spear,
Ere the curtain rose again.
The four great seas of Éire
Heaved under fierce ships of war,
The God of Battles befriended,
We saw the Star! the Star!
We nerved us for deeds of daring,
For Right we stood against Wrong;
We heard the prayer of our mothers,
In that sweet old Gaelic song.
It was the soul of Éire
Awaking in speech she knew
When the clans held the glens and the mountains,
And the hearts of her chiefs were true:
She hath stirred at last in her sleeping,
She is folding her dreams away,
The hour of her destiny neareth–
And it may be to-day–to-day!